What is one thing on your bucket list? I want to go visit the cathedrals of Frances like Chartres. That’s one of the reasons I’m working on the French language right now. What is one memory from your college years that stands out to you? There is the time my best friends and I had a milk-drinking contest. We all bought a gallon of milk and drank as much as possible. My two friends both vomited dramatically off the back porch of our house on West Street. I have a picture of one of my friends throwing up a single column of milk from his mouth down to the ground three feet below him off the back porch. It’s an amazing photograph.
Who is one author you would like to co-write a book with? Charles Dickens. What is something funny that one of your kids has said to you? My son Oliver has said many surprisingly funny and brilliant things. A few years ago, when he was about four or five years old, he was getting out of the bathtub and he put one of his feet up on the edge of the bathtub and said, “I am a mad king. I am the prince of love.” I was like, “Here’s your bath towel?” Where did this kid come from? It’s like he’s from another planet. What is one fictional town that you would love to tour? The first that springs to mind is Middlemarch from George Eliot’s novel. It’s a town where the modern world is coming into existence and it’s caught in fascinating ways between the traditions of the pre-modern world and the modern world. Who is your confirmation saint? Saint Philip Neri. He was a 16th century Italian saint and I chose him partially because he was the funniest saint. He evangelized people through humor and good spirit. He was a magnetic personality and took himself both seriously and lightly at once. What is one movie you think everyone should watch? Recently I have been very taken with the films of Paul Thomas Anderson. He has a film called “Magnolia” and another one called “The Phantom Thread.” Who is your role model? I immediately think of my parents: my father for his steady work ethic and love of his work, and my mother for being a prayerful person. What is one thing you didn’t learn until you were an adult? That the hardest times of my life are also the best times of my life. The times of greatest struggle end up becoming the deepest waters and they can be the richest sites of friendship with others and encounter with God. What is one trend from your childhood that you wish would come back? In general, in the United States, kids don’t play outside. My kids actually do play outside, but that’s just because we live in Hillsdale. What is one thing a lot of people don’t know about you? That I was not an astonishingly good high school or college student. Everybody is on a trajectory and some people are slower developers than others. I went to a kind of bland public school and it took me until the end of college to wake up all the way and remediate my high school apathy. By the time I got out of college, I was on fire. When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a musician in high school. I wanted to play the electric bass in a funk band. After high school, before I came to college, I was a missionary for a couple of years and for a time that is what I wanted to do for good. What are some of your favorite books to teach about? “Moby Dick,” “The Iliad,” and the “Confessions.” What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? My mother told me that if you want to know how a girl you’re dating is going to treat you, go home with her and see how she treats her father and her brothers. In dating sometimes, you can put on a persona, but there’s a whole family history that is written into us and is hard to see at first. What is one way you hope to impact your students? By encouraging them by my words and my example to love beautiful things and pursue wisdom through encountering them. That’s what I try to make all of my classes about and that’s why I wanted to become a professor.